Belonging and Friendship: Pinky and Rex

By connecting with the characters from the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex, students learn that it's okay to be different and consider what it means to be a good friend.



Unit 3

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students grapple with common 2nd grade themes through reading the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex. Through connecting with Pinky and Rex, students will learn that it is okay to be different and to be proud of who they are, no matter what others may think. Students will also learn about what it truly means to be a good friend and how friends can support and stick up for one another in a variety of ways. They will also see that it is okay for boys and girls to be friends, even best friends. This unit builds onto multiple units from 1st grade in which students learned what it means to be a good friend and a good person. It is our hope that this unit deepens the understandings developed in previous grades by giving students characters to connect with. These connections are especially important for students who are struggling with some of the same issues and are not sure how to process or talk about them.

This unit is a transition from units that were predominately read aloud to a unit that is almost entirely shared or independent reading. Pinky and Rex are perfect texts for second graders, not only because of the important themes they teach but because of the way in which James Howe develops character and plot over the course of the series. As readers, students will be challenged to notice the descriptive details James Howe includes to show how characters feel in response to different problems and challenges. They will also be challenged to notice how a character’s dialogue shows what they are truly feeling and how the different “said” words James Howe includes deepens that understanding. Students will also begin to analyze why certain words in a text are written in italics and what that shows about how a character is feeling. This deep dive into character will allow students to truly understand the characters and the lessons that they are learning. By reading four books in the series, students will also have the chance to see how characters develop over the course of multiple texts. By the fourth text, students will have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of all three major characters.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • What does it mean to be best friends?
  • Why is it important to stand up for yourself and what you believe?

Writing Focus Areas

Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Write simple and complex sentences
  • Use frequently occurring conjunctions “because,” “but,” and “so”

In this unit, students will use the power of basic conjunctions—“because,” “but,” and “so”—to craft more complex sentences. While the “because,” “but,” and “so” format guides students in writing complex sentences, using these conjunctions also pushes them to think critically and deeply about the content of the unit. We recommend continuing to use our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support to provide individual and small-group feedback throughout the unit.

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Use details to describe a character's actions, thoughts, and feelings. 
  • Use precise adverbs to show details about a character's thinking or feeling 

In this narrative writing project, students use what they know about Pinky and Rex to write the first chapter of an imaginary new book in the series.

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm using a Single Paragraph Outline
  • Differentiate topic sentences from supporting sentences
  • Use linking words to connect opinion and reasons 
  • Write a strong concluding statement

Students have many opportunities to write opinion paragraphs throughout the unit. In one lesson, they take the opinion paragraph through the writing process, focusing on using a Single Paragraph Outline and using linking words. In other lessons, students will focus on brainstorming their opinions and developing strong details that support those opinions. Also, they learn to decide what makes a strong topic sentence and how that is different from a supporting sentence. They take an opinion writing piece through the writing process at the end of the unit. 

Foundational Skills

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas

  • Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels
  • Decode words with common inflectional endings (-ed, -ing, -ly)
  • Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words
  • Decode and recognize contractions and compound words.

For the most part, the Pinky and Rex series books are written with decodable language. However, there are a few areas of complexity within each text. Therefore, targeted phonics and word recognition models should be added to help support students’ ability to decode and understand the core text. After a word analysis strategy is introduced, it should be spiraled and reinforced across all texts and lessons.

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Use proper intonation to show interpretation of the text.
  • Read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage.

The main focus of this unit is on reading with expression, particularly character dialogue, in order to show understanding of the text. In all four core texts the character dialogue reveals a lot about character motivations, feelings, and perspectives. Therefore, a large focus of this unit should be on including opportunities for students to practice rereading dialogue with intonation, expression, and volume to match interpretation of the passage.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others 
  • Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about topics and texts under discussion 
  • Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. 

In this unit, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others. Students continue to focus on building on others' talk in conversations, with an emphasis on asking for clarification and further explanation as needed. The focus areas and discourse in this unit align with Tier 2 of the three tiers of academic discourse and all rows of the Academic Discourse Rubric (K-2). See the Teacher Tool on Tiers of Academic Discourse to help support students with the focus areas for this unit. 



"stormed away" annoying apologize beamed chattered declared dreading forgive glared grump groaned helplessly insisted mocking mumbled muttered screeching scowled self-conscious sighed smirking snickered sulk urged


-ly self-



To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Pinky and Rex is a chapter book series. Books in a series often build on each other. We learn more about the characters and their feelings, motivations, traits, and relationships in each book. They might change or develop as you read more books in a series.
  • Having a best friend helps you face life’s challenges. Best friends support and help each other, no matter the situation. Sometimes best friends are similar, but they are often different from each other and that is okay. Best friends can get into arguments, but they always apologize and forgive each other.
  • It is important to stand up for yourself and what you believe because everyone is different. Being different is okay! When you stand up for yourself, you feel powerful and confident. And more importantly, you feel happy because you get to be yourself.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 2

Cinderella Around the World


Unit 4

Finding Your Power: <em>Freddie Ramos</em>